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Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

Library report biased

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The actions of Tweed Shire management in presenting council with a last-minute report and resolutions on the Regional Library, thereby avoiding public scrutiny, was in my view a disgraceful abuse of process.

Tweed Shire has now, by a sneaky backdoor method, introduced a dramatic change to the potential future of library services in the Tweed, making sure no ratepayers could have any say.

I am informed that Lismore councillors knew about the report before some Tweed councillors!

It is incumbent on local government to be open and transparent, but apparently not in Tweed Shire.

The matter of the future of the Regional Library has been under consideration for nearly two years. Lismore Council recently resolved to restore the Regional Library committee and allow it two years to recommend a new management model. Clearly there was no rush, so why did Tweed management rush these resolutions to council without giving them, or the community, any time to consider?

The report on this matter was hopelessly inadequate and totally misleading. In 40 years in local government I have never seen a more inadequate and biased report. Councillors were asked to resolve to investigate linking with the Gold Coast libraries, but not one iota of information was provided on this. The fact that the Gold Coast runs a fine but very expensive library service was ignored. Tweed Shire would face an enormous increase in costs for such a link. It would be like a pensioner with an old but serviceable ute saying ‘I want to join the Bentley Owners Club’.

Until 1995–96 Tweed Shire was content to provide a hopelessly inadequate library service, and rely on Tweed ratepayers making full use of the well-funded Gold Coast libraries. In the end, the Gold Coast grew tired of this bludging and introduced a $120.00 per person charge for Tweed residents using their library service. Tweed management was careful to keep this excessive fee concealed from councillors.

While no information on this was provided, totally misleading information was provided on county councils; by quoting two tiny county councils, this biased report inferred that all county councils were equally inefficient. Shamefully the report tried to link the name of the RTRL with this but it did not show, as it should have, that the RTRL was in fact one of the most cost-effective and efficient library services in the state.

The report also misled by saying no other regional library was set up as a council – of course they aren’t, until now they have not been legally able to! Five of the seven yes-men councillors voted without bothering to think for themselves, and thus Tweed Shire has foolishly moved to tie the hands of all four councils by preventing any consideration of one very logical management model. So much for trust and goodwill.

If Tweed councillors, or ratepayers, wish to see a professional, objective report on the library service I suggest they look at the report prepared by Byron Shire Council – no misleading statements there, but accurate, factual unbiased information.

I have written to the Department of Local Government to complain about what I see as Tweed Shire management’s disgraceful abuse of due process, and about its absurdly biased report, which has prevented Tweed ratepayers from making any objections to what is a major issue – the future of the Tweed’s public library service.

 

Martin Field, Kingscliff

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